As we enter the first day of WAC Conference play, there are several teams on both the men’s and women’s sides that are considered contenders to be WAC Champs. GCU is one of the schools that is lucky enough to be arguably contending both ways.
GCU men’s basketball came into the season as the favorite to win the WAC in the eyes of many. The Lopes finished non-conference play with a solid 9-4 record.
However, with some players underperforming and Yvan Ouedraogo being out indefinitely with a wrist injury, the team still has a ton of questions heading into their WAC opener against California Baptist.
After consecutive WAC Championship appearances, the GCU women are widely considered the close second to the reigning champs of SFA.
Head Coach Molly Miller has so far further proved her impressive recruiting abilities. With a team that only has four returners on the roster, they Lopes are currently 8-3 going into their first conference game in Orem against Utah Valley.
These are two teams to keep a close eye on this opening day of WAC play. So let’s dive into each team’s first conference game preview.
When the schedules were released, many were excited to learn that GCU and CBU would be facing each other in GCU Arena to open conference play.
Last season, the Lopes defeated the Lancers in both of their regular season matchups, including in the CBU Events Center. This was, of course, in front of a crowd almost entirely wearing shirts that said “Beat GCU”.
Some of the GCU players got ahold of these and still wear them to this day. So, needless to say, there’s quite a bit of tension and history between these teams.
Harrison Leads the Lopes Early
The success of the GCU men so far this season can be heavily attributed to the excellent and expected play by transfer Ray Harrison.
With the graduation of Holland Woods II, the Lopes needed another talented guard alongside Jovan Blacksher Jr. And, so far, Harrison has fit the bill. Harrison is leading the Lopes in points per game with 13.7. He’s also averaging three assists and 2.7 rebounds. The matchup between Harrison and Taran Armstrong, who’s leading CBU with 11.2 PPG, should be a fun one to watch. Whoever outperforms the other will most likely win it for their squad.
Tip off at GCU Arena is slated for 6 p.m. MT on ESPN+.
All Tied Up
Last season, the GCU Women split their series with the Wolverines of Utah Valley. Both games were close contests that saw each road team prevail. So if history repeats itself, that would mean a GCU win to open conference play. However, Utah Valley will certainly have other ideas.
Even though the Wolverines are currently 3-8, their final non-conference game was a home win over the Vandals of Idaho, who previously beat the Lopes in overtime in GCU Arena. This fact alone makes it arguably anyone’s game to win or lose.
Battle of the Browns
Both of these teams had quite the offseason, especially in the transfer portal.
Utah Valley lost their star player Josie Williams, who left to play at Louisville. But they picked up Jaeden Brown who previously played at Wyoming. Brown is leading the Wolverines with 11.6 points per contest.
On the other side of things, the Lopes’ Tiarra Brown is still managing to be a top scorer despite transfers like Evan Zars, Olivia Lane, Aaliyah Collins, and Sydney Palma joining the team as well. Brown is averaging 9.7 points and is second on the team in rebounds with 4.5. This match-up of the Browns will be a fun, and potentially confusing, game to watch.
Tip off in Orem is slated for 2 p.m. MT on ESPN+.